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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pirate Prude: "Exile in Circuitville"

I first received Pirate Prude's debut album in the mail over a month ago.  Like most albums I get in for review, I pop it right into the CD player for a preview listen just to see if it's something that I would enjoy.  After about 8 minutes of Exile in Circuitville, I had had about all that I could take.  I set it in my "To Review" box and waited to delve further into it until I had more time to devote to it.  That time came about 3 weeks ago.  I put the songs on my iPod and started my journey into Circuitville.  That one lasted about 20 minutes.

Conceived as sort of a semi-concept/tribute/response album to Liz Fair's seminal classic, Exile in Guyville and The Rolling Stone's Exile on Main Street, Exile in Circuitville is Mark Freifeld's artistic escape from the Tampa Bay area of Florida.  He describes Circuitville as being, "Infested with superficial gym rats and twink boys branding themselves with clothing labels and losing themselves in debaucherous circuit parties." If his goal in making the album was to distance himself from superficiality, he undoubtedly succeeded.  Mark seems to have an unabashed love of the early 90s indie-rock movement, and its influence on him is clear from the very beginning of the album.  Every song on Circuitville is completely drenched in distant, distorted electric guitars and Freifeld shows little care to make his vocals "pretty," or for that matter, tolerable.  It is for this reason alone that I have had such a difficult time listening to the album.  

To put it bluntly, this is some of the worst singing I've heard in my life.  Notes are missed several times a song, melodies are often uninteresting and unmoving, and Freifeld's death rattle of a voice is often exacerbated by his lo-fi approach to recording.  There are times, usually in each song, where he'll forgo his typical singing voice and opt for a nasty, wretched scream that - yes - adds a bit of emotion to the mix, but gets tired after about the third or fourth song.  And while the lyrical content proves that Freifeld is at least somewhat talented, the lyrics are mostly indistinguishable.
The music itself isn't terrible, but it isn't exactly mind-blowing either.  The guitars, as I mentioned earlier, are always heavily distorted and pushed to the back of the mix, and most of the time they repeat the same riff throughout a song's entirety.  There is no discernible percussion to be found on the album, either, which tends to make even the most upbeat Pirate Prude song feel like it's dragging on into eternity.  To be sure, the only redeeming quality that I can find on Circuitville is Tom Kersey's delicate and masterful playing of the cello.  It's soft, frail demeanor adds a nice contrast to Freifeld's excessive noise and almost makes things bearable.

Finally, after 3 weeks of giving Exile in Circuitville small doses of critical listens, I decided today to listen to the album in its entirety as I made a trip across town.  The end result is the exact same as it was over a month ago when I first heard it:  Pirate Prude is not for me, nor do I believe that it is for anybody who reads this blog regularly.  The music found on Exile in Circuitville is in no way polished, or in my opinion, presentable.  Listening to it is an excruciating experience, and one that takes an abnormal amount of patience and forgiveness.  Unfortunately, not even all of the patience and forgiveness that I can muster would be enough to want to listen to it ever again.

Key Tracks:
1. "Mister"
2. "Oh, the Places You'll Go"
3. "Devil's Hairslut"

1 out of 10 Stars

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